Boulevard Bylaw Reform

Reforming Ottawa's Boulevard Bylaws to build biodiversity and protect our pollinators.

For Our Kids Ottawa/Gatineau began advocating to change Ottawa bylaws in 2022 so that residents could replace the grass in boulevards and right-of-way areas with native plants.

Historically it has been prohibited to plant anything but grass on the city "verge" (the space between the sidewalk and the curb) and the city-owned portion of residents lawns (which can be between 3 - 8 ft in some cases!).  This bylaw made beneficial greenspaces illegal and subject to fines with a single complaint.

With the support of some amazing groups in Ottawa, including Ecology Ottawa, JustFoodCAFES (Community Associations for Environmental Sustainability) and OSEAN (Ottawa South Eco Action Network) and For Our Kids Ottawa, the city has changed the Use and Care of Roads bylaw. Here are the original changes proposed by the city:  Engage Ottawa Page.

Why is this important?

Across Canada, we are seeing a significant decline in animal and plant species. More than 700 species have been classified as at risk and about 60 of them live in Ottawa. Part of this decline is habitat loss. People are beginning to realize that every space matters, especially in urban areas.  We need to reform municipal bylaws so that they allow residents to have naturalized gardens and to encourage planting that supports native biodiversity (the plants that our local pollinators and animals have evolved with and are the best source of food and habitat)

Communities across Canada and around the world have recognized the value of naturalizing urban spaces, and have revised their policies and bylaws to make it happen. Replacing grass with plants native to the area will:

  • mitigate the impact of climate change by absorbing significantly more carbon and improving water retention

  • reduce the need to maintain grass with gas-powered mowers and improve air quality

  • protect biodiversity by creating much-needed habitats for pollinators and at-risk species

  • minimize water runoff and flooding, and

  • improve physical and mental health by connecting people more directly with natural environments  

By working together, we helped expand biodiversity in Ottawa and protected our native species, leading to a healthier planet for our kids!

What are you now allowed to do in the Right of Way?
You can now plant up to the edge of the curb! But there are some caveats. Refer to the following documents for details:


What about other parts of your yard?  
The city allows all parts of the yard that is owned by the resident to be "naturalized". This is described in another bylaw, Property Maintenance (2005-208)



Here's the original letter sent to Councillor King outlining the rationale for bylaw changes.

And here's the resource document we provided to Councillors and city staff.

Here's CBC coverage of the issue from July 13, 2022 [Note - this issue will not be addressed with the current bylaw revisions due to the 1m setback requirement.

CTV coverage of the proposed bylaw changes.

You can read more here about our story and how we made this happen.


How long did this all take?

- Early 2022, we reached out to City Councillor Rawlson King with our ask to reform the current Ottawa bylaws.

- The motion to amend the bylaw was approved at the Transportation Committee meeting on May 4! For Our Kids parent Raewyn Khosla delegated at that meeting and you can find her delegation around the 3-minute mark of this video:

- The city approved this motion at their May council meeting.

- On May 9, the city launched an Engage Ottawa page to inform residents of the proposed changes to the bylaw.

- The proposed changes will be brought to the Transportation Committee at their June 2023 meeting.